The one and only
Happened on 10th August 2007
The Indian batsmen's track record in England has been poor on the three tours in the 2010s. The English bowlers have humiliated the Indians every time they've wrestled it out in the test matches- out of a total of fifteen games, India has managed to win just 2 games.
While there have been individual performers on these tours, collectively as a unit the team has failed to impress, often giving away the match from a winning position. Batting collapses have been far too common and feeble bowling against English tailenders has become a thorn in their side.
2007, however, was different. A new, more resilient team was being built piece by piece after the horror show of the 2007 World Cup. While new blood was being drafted into the limited-overs team, the veterans shown the door in other formats found a place in the test team.
The squad that went to England was a combination of youth and experience, but nobody really expected much from the team after the debacle of a few months ago. Pessimism prevailed and apparently, that brought the best out of the team.
Heading into the third and the final match of the series, despite controversial decisions against them, the Indians had managed to wrestle a win from the English. All they needed to do was get away without losing the match at Oval.
After winning the coin toss, India elected to bat first. They got off to a solid start courtesy of Dinesh Karthik and Wasim Jaffer, but none of the batsmen could convert their starts into centuries. Nobody had all series long.
Dravid, Sachin and Laxman got out after scoring half-centuries while Karthik and Dhoni became the victims of the nervous 90s.
With the fall of the sixth wicket, Anil Kumble walked in. In the team meeting before the game, disappointment had been expressed at the inability to score centuries. Even the modern greats in the team had failed to reach that elusive three-figure mark.
Kumble decided to take matters into his own hands. He had been close to the landmark on a previous few occasions and this time, he went ahead and did it. The English had been tormented by him before but only the batsmen had faced his brunt. It was the bowlers' turn.
The first part of his innings was overshadowed by Dhoni's brutal assault on the bowlers but once the latter was out, Kumble took centre-stage. Two cracking cuts off Chris Tremlett and a lofted drive over the covers off Panesar signalled his intent.
Zaheer Khan held one end, while on the other Kumble sent the fast bowlers to every side of the ground that was there for him to hit a boundary in. Khan and then RP Singh got out in quick succession and it was increasingly looking like he was going to be stranded well-short of that hundred.
Sreesanth however, didn't let that happen. On 97, an edge that hurried past prior brought him that coveted century and Kumble raised his bat in jubilation. More than him, his teammates were ecstatic- VVS Laxman even fell off that balcony while celebrating.
India went on to post a massive 664 runs and the match ended in a draw. The Man of the Match award went to him and the Indians won their first test series in England since 1986. Of all the performances of the tour, Kumble's resilience with the bat stood out. With a pinch of luck and a whole lot of class, the madman had finally done it.
This story was first published in ThisDay.app.